The most interesting story last week was of course about the boy who was thought to have gone up did not go up. I was just watching Arianna Huffington questioning the wisdom of the story, justifiably because it is a non-story which the major networks devoted an enormous amount of time on. Arianna was on the Ed Show on MSNBC to talk about her recent post why Joe Biden, a long time opponent of sending more troops to Afghanistan, should resign if the President decides to concede to General McChrystal and send more troops. Arianna's point was that American executives should sometimes resign in protest, and not go silently as Colin Powell did, after enduring two uncomfortable years of the war in Iraq and even choosing to become the public voice justifying it. That does not measure up as integrity. But she was visibly peeved when she was called to discuss this and this discussion turned to the boy in the hot air balloon. She pointed out that this is indeed the worst kind of tele-voyeurism - and a journalistic failure to check the story's credentials before publicizing it. The discussion was amusing - a prominent blogger accusing MSNBC for wasting people's time, and Ed Schultz defending it in the name of public concern and news. That seemed to be the media world in reverse, or possibly the way soon it is going to be.
The other big news is Obama's big question - to be or not to be. Almost everyone knows that sending more troops to Afghanistan is pointless - and, as Zbigniew Brzezinski stated, the United States is increasingly making the same mistake that Soviet Union did twenty years back. He says, Soviets walked into Afghanistan and believed that they can create a communist society with a handful of urban Afghan communists. When they realized that this is not going to be easy, they sought a military solution, with the objective of getting everyones compliance to the ideas of the few. US is making a similar mistake, he says. When the United States went in, it used only about 300 special Marine commandos, along with thousands of Afghans, who saw them as liberators, to throw the Taliban out. And, then, US lost the peace, by bungling the reconstruction, by relying too much on a few Westernized Afghans in the cities. And, then, it sought a military solution. Today, there are 60,000 US troops along with 40,000 NATO ones, and General McChrystal is saying that the Taliban is winning. He's got a point, indeed. In this context, the big question before the President Obama is whether to give in and send another 40,000 troops, which will, according to Dr Brzezinski, only help solidify the opposition and expand the Taliban ranks.
Of course, the people who believe more troops should be sent pointed towards Pakistan. This was a bad week for Pakistan. The news there almost read like the ones from Iraq in its worst years, suicide attacks every day, including one inside the Army HQ in Islamabad, the capital. It looked as unstable as ever. The apologists of troop surge talk about stabilizing Pakistan, because, with its nuclear arsenal, Pakistan is a far greater danger.
This is indeed a bit of convoluted logic, which made no sense at the outset. America has already won the war in Afghanistan. What it lost is the peace. But instead of trying to win the peace, it is getting into a seize mentality. Egged on by the Pakistani administration, surely, who wants to pass on the responsibility of governing their country to the Americans, without passing on their sovereignty. The Pakistani administration failed to take any action to restrain the terrorist ideologues who preached openly and directed people to attack Indian people; their excuse was religious freedom. They possibly can't see that the bombs that went off in their territory were made of the same religious staff.
And, Americans continue to lose the peace. It made depressing reading to know about the widespread corruption in the Afghan elections, designed to keep the incumbent President, Hamid Karzai. Peter Galbraith, the ex-Deputy Head of UN Mission in Afghanistan, was surely in a place to know. I shall recommend his article in TIME as a must read. The results of the election is still not announced - it has just been delayed by another day - but media reports indicate that at least a third of the vote in favour of Karzai is possibly fraudulent. Add this to sheer mindlessness of trying out an American style election in Afghanistan, and one gets the sense why the US is losing the war. They need some common sense, not 40,000 troops, to restore Afghanistan.
Indeed, the US indifference to the stolen election in Afghanistan is making their moral stand vis-a-vis the stolen election in Iran much less convincing. The news is that some of the democracy protesters have been given death sentence for inciting trouble. With its bloodied hand in Afghanistan, rest of the world will have to stand by and say nothing. Besides, Iran seems to be getting away with its nuclear programme, as both China and Russia failed to work with the US to impose any sanctions. So, Iran will go Scot-free, which will add to the nuclear threat in the region.
And, finally talking about the UN, the UN Human Rights Council accepted the Goldstone report, despite some attempts of blackmail from the Israelis, and some woolly-minded voting from United States. Justice Goldstone said human rights have been violated and civilians have been attacked, both by Israel and Hamas, during their war in Gaza. Something which we knew, and something that must stop. Yet, Israel linked this to their national self-defence, unbelievably, and wanted states to vote against the acceptance of the report. So, did United States. Britain and France could not make up their minds, so abstained without a formal declaration. But, almost everyone else accepted the report. Indeed, this will amount to nothing, because this will now be recommended to UN General Assembly, which is notoriously ineffective because the United States will block it. So will Britain and France, as they gain their composure and discover that doing the right thing is to let Israel do whatever it likes. But, then, that's another bit in losing the peace, in Middle East in particular and in the world at large.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.